Regine's Reviews > Not Wanted on the Voyage

Not Wanted on the Voyage by Timothy Findley
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Sep 27, 10

bookshelves: canadian-authors, fantasy, owned, adaptations, favourites

It's one of my greatest frustrations that Canadian Literature has become almost synonymous with the name "Margaret Atwood." Every reading list that I've ever seen about Canadian Lit has been dominated by Atwood: "The Handmaid's Tale", "Alias Grace", "Oryx and Crake", etc. It's not that there's anything wrong with enjoying Atwood, (although I can't name many people that do), it's just that her work offers a very limited scope on what Canadian literature is all about.

What about Aboriginal authors like Thomas King? Or Mordecai Richler, who writes about growing up Jewish in Montreal? We have best-selling authors like Michael Ondaatje, and then there's my all-time favourite, where-have-you-been-all-my-life Timothy Findley. (End Margaret Atwood rant).

Not Wanted on the Voyage is a retelling of Noah's Ark. Except calling it a retelling wouldn't be fair to the author. Findley takes the story about Noah's Ark that was spoon-fed to us when we were kids and he completely reinvents it.

In the beginning, we are introduced to Yaweh (a.k.a. God). However, in Findley's version, he isn't the almighty powerful God portrayed in the Bible. Instead, he is tired, lonely, and depressed about his relationship with mankind. So he asks his devoted follower, Noah Noyes, to build an ark. At the heart of the novel, we have our two protagonists: kind-hearted, compassionate, Mrs. Noah Noyes, and Mottyl, her blind cat. The name of the book refers to Mottyl, who becomes a stowaway on the ship. Most of the story is told through her perspective. The ark is boarded by Noah and his family, and the animals enter the ark in pairs. From here, the shit show begins.

There's something very bizarre and beautiful about this book, even by Findley's standards. Findley takes the biblical world of Noah and mixes it in with fantasy. In this world, animals can talk, and unicorns are no bigger than dogs. In this world, a man's skin is marinated until it turns blue, and Lucifer is a cross-dressing angel. Aside from the whimsical aspects of this book, there's also a really dark, sombre side.

Noah is depicted as a sadistic, power-hungry man. He is unwavering in his faith in Yaweh, but obsessed with his quest for knowledge. Usually, religion and science are pitted against each other. In this case, Noah commits atrocities in because of them. Findley writes about men's destructive tendencies in pursuit of religion, power, science, etc. Noah dehumanizes his shipmates, and you can see how later on in the novel, some of the humans digress into animalistic habits. There is also an environmentalist message that highlights men’s relationship with animals, and how humans are always exploiting their resources.

Not Wanted on the Voyage is not for the faint of heart. There are several scenes in the novel that are really disturbing. But, if you want a good thought- provoking novel, or even just a good adventure, this book makes a very good, very hard-to-put-down kind of read.
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